Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cocksucker Blues (1972)

Cocksucker Blues is an unreleased documentary film directed by the noted still photographer Robert Frank chronicling The Rolling Stones' North American tour in 1972 in support of their album Exile on Main St..

The film is under a court order which forbids it from being shown unless the director Robert Frank is physically present. This ruling stems from the conflict that arose when the band, who had commissioned the film, decided that its content was inappropriate and potentially embarrassing, and did not want it shown. Frank felt otherwise — hence the ruling. The provocative title notwithstanding, its nudity, needles and hedonism was incriminating enough to get the picture shelved, and this during a liberal climate that saw the likes of Cry Uncle!, Deep Throat, and Chafed Elbows playing in neighborhood theaters. A generic performance film, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, was released instead, and Cocksucker Blues was forever shelved.

When the Rolling Stones returned to the U.S. for a 1972 tour, they let photographer Robert Frank bring a crew of film cameras along for the ride with the intention of releasing an honest, behind-the-scenes look at a big band's life on the road. The final cut was a bit more raw than the band had bargained for, though: When Mick Jagger and Co. watched Cocksucker Blues they decided they never wanted anyone else to see it. Frank won a 1977 court ruling that permits him to screen the film four times a year in an "archival situation" where he must be present. Early scenes depict the band in a dingy rehearsal space, jamming on "You Can't Always Get What You Want." The black-and-white camera shows a table of leftover cocaine lines and hangs on Charlie Watts, whose eyes are intense as he pounds away on his kit while a rail-thin Mick Jagger shouts the last few choruses in his direction.

The documentary portrayed the tour as tumultuous. A shirtless (and toothless) Richards plays a boogie-woogie piano vamp with track marks covering his left arm. Bill Wyman looks a zombie in his appearance on the Dick Cavett Show. In an infamous scene, a roadie has sex with a reluctant-looking groupie on a plane while the band bangs on percussion instruments. The Met audience collectively gasped once, at a scene where a young groupie sits on a hotel room bed and injects her arm with heroin. Still the musical performances were electrifying though gritty, the camera sound natural and unmixed. The band duets with Stevie Wonder on a Motown-style medley of "Uptight" and "Satisfaction." Between songs, a John Belushi-sized horn player takes a swig from a whiskey bottle and spins back to his mic.

96 MIN

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